ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England --
In the twilight hours amidst the rural farm fields of East Anglia, an HH-60G Pave Hawk slowly moves in to place on a taxiway. Several Airmen run against the rotor wash to link a hose from a waiting fuel truck. As the thirsty helicopter idles on the runway and finishes refilling, it rolls onto the taxiway as another moves deftly into place for the cycle to begin again.
The process called “hot gassing,” is designed to keep the helicopters on the ground for as little time as possible.
“We allow the aircraft to keep the engines running, that way, it can spend the least amount of time on the ground and get back to whatever mission it has been tasked to do,” said a staff sergeant who is a Fuels Distribution Supervisor from the 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron. “During the refueling they can swap aircrew and rescue personnel as needed and get back to saving lives and bringing people home.”
Keeping the vehicles and aircraft of the 48th Fighter Wing going comes with its own rewards.
“My favorite part of the job is when you send an aircraft, no matter what type it is and they come back without ammunition or ordnance,” he said. “You know the bad guys got what they deserved and you had a part in that because without fuel, those aircraft wouldn't go anywhere.”
The fuels management flight helps make sure aircraft stay airborne and keeps vehicles on the move but they don’t just refuel vehicles and aircraft.
“We refill the liquid oxygen from portable bottles that our fighter pilots breathe off of every night,” he said. “We handle more than just fuel in itself, we maintain our own systems and trucks, deliver fuel out to the line, cryogenics, maintain our facilities, we keep the mission going. Fuels is the central part of the 48th Fighter Wing's mission and I'm proud to be a part of that,” he said.
The fuel truck returns to its staging area for refilling and the Pave Hawks disappear into the cool night air. The Airmen of the Liberty Wing know that their ability to project airpower wherever required around the world will never be interrupted because the fuels management flight provides the energy they need, every step of the way.